REVERENCE FOR INFERIORS.
MR. CARLYLE, Mr. Kingsley, and Mr. Ruskin are, on some- what different grounds, all in favour of Mr. Eyre and the military revels which made so paradisaical a scene of Jamaica during a complete month of last autumn. Mr. Kingsley takes the mildest ground. He is in favour of judging a man by his unim- portant antecedents, and declining to judge him by his more im- portant consequents ;—for putting his trust in Mr. Eyre on the strength of what he did in 1841, and declining to revise it,—or rather, without revising, confirming it,—on the strength of his more important achievements in 1865; for believing so firmly in a man who could walk through the desert round the Gulf of Carpentaria, and protect the Australian aborigines against the set- tlers, as to deem it wicked to criticize even his own account of what he did and did not do in Jamaica twenty-five years later. There is a simplicity in that view which would have some considerable influence on our judgments of history and life. Overend, Gurney, and Co. might plead with Mr. Kingsley that twenty-five years ago they were so cautious and so prosperous, that it is wicked to con- sider their recent failure as anything but a fresh laurel on their com- mercial brows. Lord Bacon, on the strength of his fresh, unsullied youth might claim to have his ignoble and sullied age counted as a fresh addition to his fame. Nay, we might even judge Mr. Kingsley so completely by his novels of Yeast and Alton Locke, as to insist on regarding his obsequious flattery to the House of Peers as a new act of literary audacity and clerical independence. Mr. Ruskin is not so intelligible in his view, indulging in his usual mysticism. He says Mr. Eyre was quite right to hang Mr. Gordon and others on suspicion, because a British citizen the other day seeing a (sup- posed) burglar invading his premises at night, was declared not wrong for shooting that invader on suspicion. Well, that depends surely on the other equally safe courses open. If the British citizen alluded to had had several policemen with him in his house ready and willing to take the supposed burglar off to the station-house, the jury would probably have declared the man who preferred the course of shooting on suspicion a murderer. That was Mr. Eyre's case with regard to Mr. Gordon. He was a prisoner on board the Wolverine, without a possibility of escape, and Mr. Eyre preferred hanging him, without a particle of moral evidence against him, to keeping him there. And what was worse, he encouraged and praised subordinate officers for shooting, hanging, and flogging on suspicion to a wholesale extent. Mr. Carlyle comes last with his argument for Mr. Eyre. He says that Mr. Eyre extinguished with great presence of mind the spark of in- surrection in a (moral) powder-room,—which is true,—and which we have all recognized ; and affects to be unconscious that there is anything more to be said upon the matter. He takes no notice of the fact that Mr. Eyre declared the danger virtually over in four or five days, and yet sanctioned wholesale and indiscriminate shootings, hangings, and floggings for four weeks ; that he read despatches showing him clearly what his subordinates were needlessly doing, and the fiendish spirit in which they were doing it, and merely forwarded them with words of general approbation to England ; that after trampling out the threat- ening spark, he proceeded to trample down, or let others trample down, whole districts of fair promise, on the bare chance of their containing a spark that was not threatening ; in one word, that he treated the poor coloured people, because they were of a lower order of humanity, as no Englishman on earth would have dared to treat either Scotch, English, or even Irishmen in like circumstances.
This last reason indeed seems to be the true secret of Mr.. Carlyle's and Mr. Ruskin's, if not of Mr. Kingsley's, sympathy with Mr. Eyre :—" The English nation," says Mr. Carlyle, "never loved anarchy ; nor was wont to spend its sympathy on miserable mad seditious, especially of this inhuman and half-brutish type, but always loved order and the prompt suppression of seditions, and reserved its tears for something worthier than promoters of such delirious and fatal enterprises who had got their wages for their- sad industry. Has the English nation changed, then, altogether ?‘ I flatter myself it has not, not yet quite ; but only that certain, loose superficial portions of it have become a great deal louder, and not any wiser, than they formerly used to be." It may well be a question which these" loose superficial portions "of the English nation, that have become "a great deal louder and not any wiser than they formerly used to be," really are. Mr. Ruskin's is the loudest and silliest voice which has been heard on this occasion; Mr.. Kingsley and his House of Peers' speech may be bracketed equal with Mr. Ruskin ; Mr. Carlyle is only less foolish, because he is, more brief and more careful to keep out of view the facts on which he is commenting. But what we are now concerned to note- is the disposition of all three of these eminent writers, especially of the two most eminent of them, to justify unscrupulous brutality towards an inferior race which they would never have dreamt of justifying towards our own. It is because the Jamaica riot was "of the inhuman and half-brutish type" that Mr. Carlyle evidently ap- proves an inhuman and wholly brutish mode of suppressing it. We never heard that he had defended the Peterloo slaughter, yet what was done in Jamaica was worse than fifty Peterloos. Mr. Ruskin tells us that he "would sternly reprobate the crime which -dragged a black family from their home to dig your fields, and more sternly the crime which turned a white family out of their home that you. might drive by a shorter road over their hearth." We suppose this means that Mr. Ruskin considers a less injustice to the higher race a greater crime than a greater injustice to the lower race_ Indeed both Mr. Ruskin and Mr. Carlyle have long been known as apologists of slavery and slaveowners ; and they naturally feel therefore closely concerned in justifying that cruel and indis- criminate mode of suppressing insubordination, which has been habitually followed by slaveowners as long as slaveowners have been.
The truth seems to be that the literary aristocracy of England are contracting one of the worst vices of aristocracies of all kinds, the entire loss of reverence for inferiors,—the entire disappearance.
of that species of generosity, scrupulous respect, and even awe, its dealing with recognized inferiors,—with those whose character as. well as fate lies more or less in your own power,—which is one of the deepest principles of Christianity, and the least within the- reach of mere intellectual culture. Mr. Carlyle reproaches; all who differ with him with merely taking up and re-echoing chatter
that comes "from the teeth outwards," that is, which has no real source in principle and conviction at all. To us, on the conker", his views seem to proceed "from the teeth inwards," that is, to originate in the carnivorous instinct—in those canine teeth which grind the bones of their prey—and to be ground down by the gnashing of these victorious incisors into the very substance of the mind's nourishment and the groundwork of its beliefs. Intellectual culture, directly it persuades itself, as it does in Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Ruskin,—it used at least to be otherwise with Mr. Kings- ley,—that it has discovered the whole secret of a better state of society, and is capable, if only people would hearken and believe, of setting it straight again, becomes one of the most cruel of fanaticisms. The reason appears to be that it is always looking down from a supreme height, and looking down without any of that reverence for what lies below it, without any of that trust in possibilities far deeper and nobler than any which we have exhausted, without any of that fear of marring by our moral and intellectual presumption the development of better thoughts and larger faiths than any we have yet realized, which Plato included in that "mutual reverence" which was to him the cement of human society, and Christ inculcated in so many forms both of precept and example. Our Lord's thankfulness "that Thou hest bid these things from the wise and prudent, and haat revealed them unto babes," might be paraphrased for our modern times—we need not say we speak seriously, and without any irony,—into thankfulness "that Thou haat hid these things from Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Adderley, and bast revealed them to the working men's open-air meetings, the Anti-Slavery Society, and to the Bee- hive." The truth is that men of intellect have in a great measure ceased to believe in what they do not understand. They do not look at the lower levels of human nature as great seed-beds of feelings and hopes many of which have long withered out of their own hearts in consequence of the exclusive attention they have paid to other elements of their nature. They are not afraid of permanently injuring those below them by their want of delicacy, and gene- rosity, and sympathy. They do not see the incalculably greater harm they do by exciting the fierce and just animosity of an inferior race, than even by exciting the same feelings in an equal race,—that they determine the future growth of the former incal- culably more powerfully than the latter, and sacrifice infinitely greater chances of guiding it aright. We have excited keen and just animosity of late years, both in the people of the United States, by our false appreciation of their conduct and motives, and in the negro race, by our apologies for slavery and our gratitude to those who have treated them like slaves. We have done harm of course in both cases, but far more, we apprehend, in the latter than in the former. An injurious misjudgment by an equal is resented, refuted, perhaps visited with some act of retaliation, and then probably forgotten. The injurious treatment of an inferior hardens that inferior's character against all the higher influences you may bring to bear upon him, and so distorts his development. The cruelty of intellectual culture springs from its bareness, its narrow distinctness. It has formed a sort of pet picture to itself of what is desirable and needful for men, and harped upon these qualities till it has ceased to feel that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in its philosophy." Listen to Mr. Ruskin drawing his favourite indictments against the English people,— many of them no doubt for crimes of which they are really guilty, —and trying insanely to make out that indignation against the recent Government of Jamaica is only a pharisaic pretence, really swelling the list of our iniquities :— " As the matter stands the official removal of Mr. Eyre from his place was an act of national imbecility which had not hitherto its parallel in history. It was the act, as this threat of prosecution was the cry, of a nation blinded by its avarice to all true valour and virtue, and haunted therefore by phantoms of both. It was the suicidal act of a people which, for the sake of filling its pockets, would pour mortal venom into all its air and all its streams, would shorten the lives of its labourers by thirty years, that it might get its needle packets twopence each cheaper. and which would communicate its liberty to foreign nations by forcing them to buy poison at the cannon's mouth, and prove its chivalry to them by shrinking in panic from the side of a people being slaughtered —though a people who had given them their daughter for their future Queen—and then would howl, in the frantic collapse of their decayed consciences, that they might be permitted righteously to reward with rain the man who had dared to strike down one seditious leader and rescue the lives of a population."
Does Mr. Raskin really mean that the contractors or companies who sell bad water for the sake of making profit, the employers who are heedless of their labourers' lives, the advocates of a forced Chinese opium traffic, andthepoliticians who advocatedthedesertion of Denmark, have all "in the collapse of their decayed consciences" been particularly prominent in this pharisaic attack, as he deems it, on Governor Eyre? If he does mean this, he must have some curious evidence in his pocket which it would be well for him to produce. If he does not, then we charge him with using rhetoric that has no meaning or a false meaning, and which any one might fir more fairly ascribe to the collapse of a "decayed conscience" in him- self. The truth, as he probably knows, is, that of the prominent men who have taken up most strongly this demand for justice to the Jamaica negroes, almost all have been equally prominent in de- nouncing the " avarice " to which he alludes, in pushing forward measures of protection for the English labourer, in resisting the Chinese opium war, and if not also in advocating (as we did) the tender of assistance to Denmark, in resisting it on grounds which they believed to be the highest and the purest. But all these are Mr. Ruskin's pet abuses, and slavery is one of his pet institutions. There is no non-conductor of ordinary pity and sympathy like that of private dogma, inclining the holder of it to wink hard at the evils which it produces in practice.
Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Ruskin have made up their minds that the lower races should be managed and governed by the higher, and they decline to recognize any evil which results from the appli- cation of their principle. If they believe in reverence for inferiors at all, they attach so much more importance to the compulsion of inferiors by superiors as to make the former principle a sterile one. "Seditious of the semi-brutal sort" by " semi-brutes " they wish to see crushed out with armed heels ; but government of the wholly brutal sort by men who are civilized, and not brutes, they applaud. If you are only capable of better things, you may commit without a shadow of blame the atrocities for which those incapable of better things are to be shot down. A picturesque theory of a certain ideal relation between men, which somehow never gets itself realized, seems, however inefficient for the purpose for which it is invented, to be exceedingly effici- cient in ever after blinding the mind which invents it to hostile facts. Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Ruskin are clad in complete mail, which is absolutely proof against the simple facts of the recent dealings of the Government of Jamaica with the population of the island. They stand, having their loins girt about with theory, and having on the breastplate of theory, and their feet shod with the preparation of a gospel of theory, and taking the shield of theory,—which proves quite effectual to quench all the fiery darts of the enemy,—and having on the helmet of theory, and the sword of theory,—which is not the Word of God, but a very impotent human word indeed ; and therefore, though they are impenetrable to the truth themselves, they win no way with those who have not case-hardened themselves, by false dogma, against the obvious truth that wholesale brutality and indifference to justice in suppressing sedition on the part of the civilized, is infinitely worse and requires far severer judgment than "semi- brutality" in committing sedition on the part of "semi-brutes."